University of Florida College of Education faculty Patricia Snyder and Nicholas Gage were named 2021 Council for Exceptional Children Division for Research awardees. 

Snyder, UF Distinguished professor and director of the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, was recognized with the Kauffman-Hallahan-Pullen Distinguished Research Award. Gage, associate professor of Special Education, was recognized with the Martin J. Kaufman Distinguished Early Career Research Award.

“Dr. Snyder is a pillar of early childhood research, a veritable icon in the field,” said College of Education Dean Glenn Good. “The University of Florida is privileged to have her among its ranks, leading the way for faculty who, like Dr. Gage, are early in their careers. These awards are representative of the full spectrum of high-caliber researchers at UF and demonstrate the college’s preeminent domain expertise.”

Patricia Snyder — Kauffman-Hallahan-Pullen Distinguished Researcher

The Kauffman-Hallahan-Pullen award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to the field of special education that have improved or enhanced services and education for exceptional individuals. A champion for early intervention and early learning for more than 40 years, Snyder embodies what it means to be a distinguished scholar. 

Through professional and personal experiences, she recognized early on a calling to foster inclusive practices and improve outcomes for young children, birth to age five with or at risk for disabilities or learning delays, and to identify effective strategies for supporting them and their families. 

She began her career as a speech and language therapist working with children under five and their families as part of a transdisciplinary team. She quickly realized the power and opportunity in early prevention and intervention efforts, particularly embedded instruction practices.   

“I didn’t want to take children down the hall to the therapy room or work with them while their caregiver watched me,” Snyder said. “I wanted to support children’s development and learning, working alongside other team members in classrooms or with caregivers in their homes — places where all children interact and learn in their everyday activities and routines.”

Patricia Snyder

This, however, was a novel idea at the time. Many practitioners did not understand the principles and practices of embedded instruction nor the value to young children’s development and learning. In fact, in the 1970s, families whose children had more significant disabilities might have been advised to consider institutional care for their children.

“I’ll never forget a mom I met when her daughter was 12 months old,” Snyder said. “Her child had cerebral palsy and the doctor had advised her that ‘she might never walk, she might never talk — you might want to think about where you’re going to have her live when you can no longer care for her.’”

 A short time after meeting this mom and interacting with her and her child, Snyder and the early intervention team knew this prediction was wrong.